What You Can Learn About Negotiating From The American Pickers TV Show

by Hank Coleman

American Pickers is a fairly new History Channel television show in its second season that puts two professional “pickers” or antique buyers together in a van traveling around the country looking for potential valuable gems that can be bought and sold. While the duo, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, will buy anything they can make a profit on, they seem to specialize in items like old bicycles, motorcycles, vintage advertisements, and the like that they have to uncover and dig out from barns, attics, salvage yards, etc.

I bring this show up not only because it is a very entertaining show, but because there are many successful tips and techinques to good negotiations that can be learned from the pair as well. Here are a few negotiating tips that you can learn from the guys on American Pickers and put into your own practice when purchasing goods and services.

Don’t Name A Price First. Pure and simple, the first person in a business transaction to name a price is at a disadvantage. If you are buying an item, you have the potential of naming a price that is too high right from the very start and overpaying. The same is true for a seller. You potentially will not be able to squeeze out as much profit if you name a price first and it is too low. Or, you have the potential to scare a buyer away with a price that is too high.

Be Prepared To Walk Away. The best advantage a buyer has is the ability to walk away from the deal after a price has been established and counteroffers fail. If a buyer names a price that is initially turned down by the seller, walking away can be a great tactic. The price will potentially start to eat at someone after you leave. If the deal is good enough or if the item has been on the shelf long enough, the seller may constantly think about the one that got away. Be sure to leave a way for the seller to contact you if they change their mind or even remind yourself to check back in with the seller later down the road.

Specialize And Be Knowledgeable. While the guys on American Pickers buy a lot of different items, you can see in every episode that they do specialize in buying and selling certain items. Mike and Frank tend to gravitate towards bicycles, motorcycles, advertising signs, and other specific items. They know these items and their values inside and out. Everyone should approach their own negations in this manner. If you are going to negotiate, and you can negotiate almost anything, then you should know the true value of the item and its wholesale costs if available. You must know how much the dealer paid for a car in order to get the best deal on it. You need to know how much you can pay the kid down the street to mow your lawn before you give your son a raise to his allowance. The person with the most knowledge about the item has the upper hand in the negotiation pure and simple.

Lump Things Together. Mike, the main picker on the show, loves to lump items together in order to get a good deal. For example, if someone is having trouble selling something at a decent price, you might be able to buy two things lumped together (a new item and the original more expensive item) in one purchase for a better price than buying them separately.

Keep The End In Mind. What are your intentions with the item you are buying? How much do you really want or need it? How much can you resell it for? What is your bottom line that you can offer or accept and still make a decent profit? Knowing the answers to these critical, pertinent questions before even starting your negotiations can greatly help you. You need to know the end in mind. Like most pawn shops, Mike and Frank know that they have to buy antiques at wholesale prices in order to make a profit and pay their own costs of doing business. That is why you will generally see them try and pay half of what they can sell an item for. If you are negotiating a new salary at a new job, you need to know how much you have to have in order to live your life or how much it would be worth it for you to move across the country, for example. And, you have to know those details before going into the negotiation.

Negotiating a deal or buying an item like an antique is a skill and an art. It takes practice, but everyone can learn to make better deals. You may be wondering why bother, but you would be surprised at the number of times you actually negotiate things in your everyday life. While buying a new car or closing on a house are great negotiating times in our lives, there are other times when we negotiate and do not even realize it. Do you have to barter with your wife on who will do the dishes at night? Do you have to trade something with your kids to make them do chores? At first glance, you will say no. But, if you dig deep in your lives, there are tons of instances where we barter, trade, or negotiate for goods and services. If we are better at negotiating, then our lives will be better and so will our finances. You can definitely learn a thing or two from the guys on American Pickers and hone bargaining your skills.

Photo used with permission of the History Channel. ©2009 AETN / Photo Credit: Joey L

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